Activation of Tumor-Cell STING Primes NK-Cell Therapy

Cancer Immunol Res. 2022 Aug 3;10(8):947-961. doi: 10.1158/2326-6066.CIR-22-0017.


Activation of the stimulator of interferon genes (STING) pathway promotes antitumor immunity but STING agonists have yet to achieve clinical success. Increased understanding of the mechanism of action of STING agonists in human tumors is key to developing therapeutic combinations that activate effective innate antitumor immunity. Here, we report that malignant pleural mesothelioma cells robustly express STING and are responsive to STING agonist treatment ex vivo. Using dynamic single-cell RNA sequencing of explants treated with a STING agonist, we observed CXCR3 chemokine activation primarily in tumor cells and cancer-associated fibroblasts, as well as T-cell cytotoxicity. In contrast, primary natural killer (NK) cells resisted STING agonist-induced cytotoxicity. STING agonists enhanced migration and killing of NK cells and mesothelin-targeted chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-NK cells, improving therapeutic activity in patient-derived organotypic tumor spheroids. These studies reveal the fundamental importance of using human tumor samples to assess innate and cellular immune therapies. By functionally profiling mesothelioma tumor explants with elevated STING expression in tumor cells, we uncovered distinct consequences of STING agonist treatment in humans that support testing combining STING agonists with NK and CAR-NK cell therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive*
  • Killer Cells, Natural*
  • Membrane Proteins* / agonists
  • Mesothelioma, Malignant*
  • Receptors, Chimeric Antigen


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Receptors, Chimeric Antigen
  • STING1 protein, human